Thousands of American Muslims, particularly those living in Texas, devoted their time to rescue and relief work for victims of the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, putting behind the customary festive Eid-al-Adha gatherings with family and friends.
Texas is home to around 250,000 Muslims, many of them well-established entrepreneurs and professionals in wide-ranging fields. The Muslim community turned their places of worship into shelters for victims of one of the most dangerous storms experienced in recent history in Texas.
Besides working on the ground to help victims, many Muslim activists and average citizens used social media platforms to urge community participation and donations for relief and rescue work in the face of this enormous natural disaster.
“Look, helping is a total no-brainer. You don’t even have to discuss or debate it,” M.J. Khan, a Pakistani-American who is the President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said.
Khan and many faith leaders, emphasized the Islamic spirit of reaching out to people without any discrimination.
“It’s part of our faith and part of being human. I always feel that this is why God created human beings: for us to help each other,” Khan told reporters, according to media accounts.
Those who take shelter in the mosques “will not be disturbed, they will not be displaced, they will not be moved,” as long as needed.
Houston, which bore the brunt of the hurricane flooding, has around 60,000 Muslims, and many started doing relief work the moment the hurricane battered the city with heavy rains.
A report in The National indicates that members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Houston rescued dozens of residents using boats since Harvey struck the city.
In Stafford, Texas, Shaizad Chatriwala, the director of the Islamic Center, is providing a 24-hour refuge and offering hot food and clothes, according to a CNN report.
Elsewhere, a mosque in the city of Beaumont—the Islamic Society of Triplex— offered food and volunteer medical care to neighbors, according to Amna Ahmed, a member of the mosque.
Although several Muslim families had to evacuate their homes south of Houston, they still delivered meals to an estimated 500 people at the city’s two emergency shelters on Thursday night, Ms. Ahmed said.
A citizen who took shelter in the Champions mosque’s gym said, “Muslims are just like any other type of person. They’re caring, loving, giving people.”
“I feel very fortunate that they were open and willing to come and have this space,” Katherine McCusker told AP, according to a news story.
Many other Americans, who were being housed in mosques, have also taken to social media, saying that they enjoyed the Muslim tradition of hospitality.
Muslim activist, Saira Siddiqui, who is a student of social justice, said the disaster provided an “an opportunity for us to simply get to know one another. And that is what will bring about long-term change.”
Her remark referred to the anti-Muslim sentiment and recent spike in acts of vandalism against mosques and violence against members of the Muslim community – something that has challenged America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants, and with it, multiculturalism and coexistence of diverse communities.
We at the American Muslim Institution have been saddened at the tragic loss of lives and property resulting from Hurricane Harvey and have encouraged support for victims. We appreciate that American Muslims have been at the forefront of rescue and relief work.
Our sadness at the tragedy is tempered a little by our hope that the goodwill created by the relief work of American Muslims and those of other faiths and communities will help heal divisions and unify American society for the well-being of all its diverse people.